USDA Announces Discovery of Mad Cow Disease

Dec 24, 2003
George Anderson

By George Anderson

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced yesterday that the first
case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) also known as mad cow disease
was discovered in an adult Holstein cow on a farm near Yakima, Wash.

According to the USDA Web site, “BSE is a progressive neurological disease
among cattle that is always fatal. It belongs to a family of diseases known
as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Also included in that family of
illnesses is the human disease, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), which
is believed to be caused by eating neural tissue, such as brain and spinal cord,
from BSE-affected cattle.”

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman expressed confidence in the safety of
the nation’s food supply but action was swift as other countries including Japan
and South Korea banned imports of American beef.

Michael Hansen, senior research associate, Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer
, said, “The U.S. needs to be far more proactive in protecting the
American food supply. We are very concerned that the diseased animal made it
into the food supply and that the processing plants could be contaminated.”

Dr. Elsa Murano, the under secretary for food safety, USDA, told the New
York Times
the government was considering a recall of the beef from the
slaughterhouse and processing plants where the infected cow was butchered. Dr.
Murano said a recall was “likely to happen.”

The farm where the cow came from is currently under quarantine.

Moderator’s Comment: What will the discovery of BSE
(mad cow disease) mean for the beef industry, including retailers and foodservice?

We don’t suppose there is ever a good time for BSE to
be discovered and, if there was, this certainly wouldn’t be it.

The U.S. beef industry has received a boost domestically
from the low-carb diet craze, but many consumers will now be looking for alternative
protein sources based on this news.

As we’ve seen in previous cases of BSE in the UK and
Canada, yesterday’s announcement will essentially wipe out exports of beef until
other nations are comfortable the U.S. product is safe for consumption.

Samples from the cow have been sent to England for confirmation
of the preliminary BSE finding. Results are expected back within five days.
Those interested can get daily updates on the USDA Web site (
or calling 1-866-4USDACO.
Anderson – Moderator

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